Russia Threatens Wikipedia With $50K Fine for Ignoring Ukraine Warning

Russia's telecommunications regulator has doubled down on its warning to Russian-language Wikipedia over an article it says contains "inaccurate information" about the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.

Roskomnadzor said on Thursday it is fining the non-profit organisation up to 4 million rubles (some $49,000), for refusing to delete information about the Ukraine war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

In a press release, the agency said it was issuing the fine due to Wikipedia's "failure to delete illegal information."

The Russian-language Wikipedia contains "false information on the subject of a special military operation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Ukraine aimed at misinforming Russian users," it said.

The article in question, titled "The Russian Invasion of Ukraine (2022)," mentions injuries and fatalities among Ukrainian civilians citing U.N. data, as well as deaths among Russian servicemen.

Russian authorities have prohibited media from calling Putin's invasion a "war" or an "invasion"—state-run media outlets adopt the term "special military operation." Putin on February 24 said he wants to disarm Ukraine and eliminate the threat it poses to Russia's national security. He used the terms "de-militarization" and "de-Nazification."

"As a justification for the invasion, Vladimir Putin stated the need to protect the Donetsk People's Republic, the Luhansk People's Republic and Russia itself, and also used the unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine is a neo-Nazi state," the Wikipedia entry states.

Civilian Deaths

The article cites Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as saying that Russian forces have launched indiscriminate missile strikes on residential areas, hospitals and other social infrastructure facilities in Ukraine.

It also cites information from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last month that 13 civilians were killed and 47 were injured after Russia used cluster munitions in the residential areas of Vuhledar and Kharkiv.

Russia has repeatedly denied that it has targeted civilians or civilian infrastructure.

It comes days after Wikipedia was issued a second warning from Roskomnadzor.

On March 28, the communications agency said in its notice that the article contains "inaccurate information about the special military operation to protect the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics for the de-militarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine."

"In particular, in the article, the special military operation is called 'Russia's invasion of Ukraine,' 'Russian aggression against Ukraine,' 'Russian-Ukrainian war' and 'war'," the notice said.

Russian Losses

"The material contains information about numerous victims among the servicemen of the Russian Federation, as well as the civilian population of Ukraine, including children, which does not correspond to the official data published by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation," it said.

The Wikipedia entry cites the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as saying on March 30 that the Russian military had lost about 17,300 personnel. It also quotes the Ministry of Defense of the Donetsk People's Republic as saying that 47 fighters were killed and 406 were wounded since February 24.

The Russian Defense Ministry on March 25 said that 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed in combat and 3,850 injured. The Wikipedia article makes reference to these figures.

The March 28 notice said that the information disseminated in violation of the law must be deleted within a day of receipt of the warning.

Newsweek has contacted Roskomnadzor, Wikipedia and Russian authorities for additional comment.

The Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia's San Francisco-based parent organization, said in a statement on March 3 that it "will not back down in the face of efforts to censor and intimidate members of our movement."

Media Censorship

Roskomnadzor has also cracked down on independent media outlets in Russia for their reporting on Putin's Ukraine invasion.

On Monday, leading Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta became the latest outlet to suspend operations after receiving warnings from Roskomnadzor.

"We received another warning from Roskomnadzor. After that, we are ceasing covering both online and in print until the end of the 'special operation on the territory of Ukraine'," Novaya Gazeta's editors said on social media.

Wikipedia's Russian-language entry notes that one of the reasons for Roskomnadzor blocking a number of Russian and foreign media outlets was their qualification of Russia's actions as an "attack", "invasion" or "declaration of war."

Wikipedia is unusual in that the online encyclopedia "is written collaboratively by largely anonymous volunteers", as Wikipedia's article about itself says.

Last month, the Russian parliament passed a law that criminalizes the distribution of "fake news" about Russia's military. Those convicted face up to 15 years in jail.

Wikipedia site
Computer screen showing the website for free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Russia’s telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor on Thursday doubled down on its warning to Russian-language Wikipedia over an article that it says contains “inaccurate information” about the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images